At 6:45AM on Wednesday, August 26th, a routine live interview with a local Chamber of Commerce representative took a deranged turn for a shocked Roanoke Virginia audience. The camera violently fell to the ground to reveal a familiar face for the news station, but not one that they would expect in that broadcast.
An ex-employee of WDBJ-TV gunned down the cameraman, Adam Ward, and the on-air reporter, Alison Parker. Both died on the scene. The interviewee, Vicki Gardner is in critical condition after being shot in the back when trying to flee.
The killer was an anchor for the news station and whose employment was terminated for undisclosed reasons. While on-air he went by Bryce Williams, his real name being Vester L Flanagan II.
Although there seems to be no connection between the murderer, and the reporter his time at WDBJ-TV did overlap that of Adam Ward, whose fiancee was in the control room to witness the unfortunate live broadcast of the killings. He had recently told her that he was not sure if he would continue in news.
While Flanagan had planned an escape by dumping the original getaway vehicle in exchange for one he’d rented earlier in the month, the authorities were able to track him by his cell phone. Once located, police enacted an attempt to pull him over. He gave chase and shortly after his car crashed and he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Two videos were posted to social media site, Twitter, which show a person walking up to Parker and Ward right before they were slain. The site has since removed the videos for their graphic content, but they were posted under the name Bryce Williams, the same as Flanagan’s previous handle on WDBJ-TV.
ABC News reported receiving a twenty three page manifesto from Flanagan, outlining his desires to retaliate against his former employer and spark racial controversy by killing the white news crew. He claims to have been bullied and discriminated against for being both black and gay; calling himself a, “human powder keg…about to go off for a while now”. His dissertation goes on to say that the murders were intended to be a response against whites to the Charleston, NC shooting perpetrated by Dylann Roof at Emanuel A.M.E. Church and probes the question, “You want a race war?”.
Flanagan praises Seung-Hui Cho, of the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, and the Columbine High School shooters of 1999 in his many pages of ravings and calls them his inspiration.
It is clear that he was disturbed and chose his victims by their position at the station and their race. The rest of what drove him to commit such a heinous act is no doubt trapped in what’s left of his brain at the county morgue.